Monthly Archives: July 2011

Lake Haiyaha and Chaos Canyon

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  • Lake Haiyaha

    Lake Haiyaha with an incoming storm

    Mileage: 4.2 miles roundtrip

  • Elevation gain: 745 feet
  • Altitude: 10,220 feet
  • To get there: Take the Bear Lake Road in RMNP to the Bear Lake trailhead. Take the trail toward Dream Lake, then take the left fork to Lake Haiyaha

I am leaning slightly backwards with my arms out to the sides for balance and my toes pointing out to slow me down on the snow. This was a tactic I was taught at about age six, with a pair of skis on my feet. In July and with no skis on my feet, I am attempting to ‘snow plow’ (as it was called) down Chaos Canyon in my hiking boots. Above Lake Haiyaha no, we are coming down from the canyon. The snow is slick and not too steep to slide down. I am wobbling and laughing, feeling like I am on the bunny hill again.

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Photos from our first two-nighter

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We recently completed our first two-night backpacking trip in RMNP of the season and I put this photo slideshow together. Our trip started at the Long’s Peak trail head. We spent our first night at the Moore Park camp site. On our second day we hiked about 7 miles to the Boulder Brook group site. That day we took a side trip to Mills Lake and Jewel Lake. On the third and last day we got up early to hike up and over Granite Pass, which took us right by the base of longs. Finally, we left our packs off the trail and took a side trip to Chasm Lake. Our whole loop, with the side trips, was about 26 miles! Enjoy the photos and read the posts below to hear more about the trip.

Chasm Lake

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Hiking details:

  • Mileage: 8.4 miles roundtrip
  • Altitude:11,760 feet
  • Elevation gain:2,360 feet
  • To get there: Take Highway 7 to the Long’s Peak Area. Leave from the Long’s Peak trail head.

I am employing my Pilates breathing: inhale for five counts, exhale for five counts. This is my best technique for staying calm in nerve-racking situations. The current situation: crossing a 150-yard, south-facing snowfield on the way to Chasm Lake. The stakes: slipping and sliding uncontrollably into a boulder field. Breathe, balance, and remain confident, I tell myself.

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Boulder Brook group site

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Hiking details:

  • Mileage: 7 miles from Moore Park campsite (where we came from), 7.8 miles roundtrip from the Glacier Gorge trail head, 5.4 miles roundtrip from the Sprague Lake or Storm Pass trail heads.
  • Elevation gain:  960 feet from Glacier Gorge trail head, 1,490 from Sprague Lake and Storm Pass trail heads.
  • Altitude: 10,200 feet
  • To get there: From Glacier Gorge Trailhead on the Bear Lake Road in RMNP follow the trail past Alberta Falls. Following signs to Boulder Brook, turn left at the junction with the Mills Lake/Loch Vale trail. From Sprague Lake or Storm Pass trailheads on Bear Lake Road in RMNP: Follow the Boulder Brook trail.
  • Side Trips: Boulder Brook trail, The Loch Vale, Mills Lake, Jewel Lake, Black Lake, Alberta Falls

“Watch out!” Alex yells from behind me, as a falcon’s scream is getting closer and closer to my head.

I duck, making sure to keep the stick I am carrying high above my head in an attempt at protecting myself. We are on Storm Pass and I am being dive-bombed by a sizeable falcon. I don’t see her, but I hear her and that’s enough to scare me. When we reached the trail junction pointing us either to Storm Pass or to the East Portal trailhead, there was a sign stapled to a tree. It warned us of the aggressive raptor and advised an alternate route. However, this is the way to our next site on our two night trip, so we have to go through the raptor’s territory.

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Mills Lake, Jewel Lake

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Hiking details:

  • Mileage: 5 miles round trip from Glacier Gorge trail head to Mills Lake, 6 miles roundtrip to Jewel Lake.
  • Altitude: Mills Lake: 9,940 feet, Jewel Lake: 9,950 feet
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • To get there: Take the Bear Lake Road in RMNP to the Glacier Gorge trail head.

Feeling light after hiking with a full pack on all day, we are energetic on our afternoon side trip from the Boulder Brook group site to Mills Lake and Jewel Lake. We are heading west, staring dark, heavy clouds in the face as we walk toward them. Where the trail from the Boulder Brook group site meets the Glacier Gorge trail, we run into crowds of hikers. Some families are turning back, deterred by the building storm, and when we reach Mills Lake, we find the trail to be pretty quiet.

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Moore Park site

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Hiking details:

  • Mileage: 3.4 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 360 feet
  • Altitude: 9,760 feet
  • To get there: Take Highway 7 to the Long’s Peak trailhead. Follow the Long’s Peak trail 0.5 miles and take a right at the fork in the trail.
  • Side trips: Eugenia Mine, Estes Cone.

We are starting out to Moore Park late, as dusk is settling in the Estes Valley, and I am happy we only have 1.7 miles to the site after a tough day at work. It is quiet on the trail and we meet no other hikers, except for some of my fellow Mary’s Lake Lodge employees who are just getting down off the Estes Cone. As they are heading home, we are just beginning our first two-nighter of the season. I am exhausted, but exhilarated about what mysteries the next two days in the park might hold.

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Monarch Lake

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Monarch Lake

Monarch Lake

Hike details:

  • Mileage: off the road with a 3.9 mile loop around the lake
  • Elevation gain: 260 feet
  • Altitude: 8,590 feet
  • To get there: From Granby take Highway 34 north to the entrance to the Arapaho National Recreation Area. Travel east on Forest Road 125 for about 10 miles to the Monarch Lake Trailhead.

I find myself continually talking about how vertical, how unceasingly uphill Rocky Mountain National Park is, but, to my relief, that isn’t the case at Monarch Lake. The catch, though, is that Monarch Lake is not actually in RMNP. The lake is situated in Arapaho National Forest, on the western outskirts of the national park. I’ve heard that on the west side of the park things are a bit calmer and quieter. Maybe it’s because this side of the park is not as easily accessible from Denver, or maybe it’s because it doesn’t offer the dramatic mountain views that the east side does. Whatever the reason, a visit to the west side makes for a nice change of pace, scenery, and heart rate, I thought as I walked along the fairly flat trail around Monarch Lake.

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Lumpy Ridge Loop

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Hiking details:

  •  Mileage: 11 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: unknown because of the traverse across various trails
  • Altitude: unknown because of the traverse across various trails
  • To get there: Take the Highway 34 bypass to McGregor Ave. Follow McGregor Ave. to the Gem Lake trail head.

We are surrounded by lush, green forest, with sprigs of classic periwinkle Columbines reaching far out of the groundcover. I grew up looking at Columbines in my mother’s garden and in the manicured gardens of my neighborhood parks. But I have never seen them like this before: sprouting out from underneath fallen trees, from the middle of bushes, big, small, grouped, paired, wild. About halfway through our longest day hike yet I am amazed not by the grandiose views we are always getting in RMNP or by a raging waterfall, but by the smallest of gems in the park: the wildflowers. Wildflowers, I remember, are the reason I love July.

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Bear Lake

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Hiking details:

  • Mileage: off the road
  • Altitude: 9, 475 feet
  • To get there: Take the Bear Lake Road in RMNP to the Bear Lake trailhead.

As we approach the start of the Bear Lake loop trail, I feel a bit like I am entering an amusement park. There are families chattering and parents disciplining their children. We have a volunteer take our picture. But mostly what makes me feel this way is the sheer amount of people who are also embarking on the loop. As much as I love to go backpacking for days and not see another hiker, I don’t really mind the people here. Bear Lake is big and beautiful and offers some of the best views in the park of Long’s Peak, the Keyboard of the Winds and Hallett Peak. Everyone here is enjoying themselves, and that’s what national parks are all about, right?

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Sandbeach Lake

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Meeker Peak from Sandbeach Lake

Meeker Peak from Sandbeach Lake.

Hiking details:

  • Mileage: 8.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1,971 feet
  • Altitude: 10, 283 feet
  • To get there: Take Highway 7 to the Wild Basin Area of RMNP. Park at the Sandbeach Lake trail head, which is right by the entrance station.

We are hiking on top of a snow bank, steps away from a sandy beach. I wonder if there are any other places where sand and snow share the same space, other than high alpine lakes. Later, after coming home, I read that Sandbeach Lake used to be dammed up and when the dam was removed, the lake waters dropped to their natural levels and revealed the sandy beach. The trail drops us on the northwest side of the lake and we shuffle through the sand to a more eastern vantage point. There, we are watching the movement of lingering dark clouds. There are still plenty of hours of daylight, and I wanted to swim, splay out on the beach, and read a book. Instead, I am putting on more layers and trying to decide if the most recent rumble in the sky was closer to us or further away than the last.

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